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Women’s Homeless Pathways: A Longitudinal Perspective

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Presentation given by Sarah Sheridan, IE at the Ninth European Research Conference on Homelessness, "Homelessness in Times of Crisis", Warsaw, September 2014
http://feantsaresearch.org/spip.php?article222&lang=en

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Women’s Homeless Pathways: A Longitudinal Perspective

  1. 1. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 “Just Keep Doing What We’re Supposed To Do”: A Qualitative Longitudinal Perspective of Homeless Women’s Pathways Sarah Sheridan, PhD Candidate, Trinity College Dublin Supervisor: Dr Paula Mayock Insert your logo here
  2. 2. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Focus of Presentation 1.Explanations of homelessness: Structure versus agency debate 2.Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR) 3.The study 4.Housing pathways of sample between Phase I & II 5.Exploring structure and agency in the data 6.Conclusion
  3. 3. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Structure Versus Agency Explanations of homelessness: Up until 1960s – individual deficits 1960s – 1980s – structural explanations Recent years – interaction between individual and structural processes A “new orthodoxy” of homelessness? Since 2000, research on homeless women had grown somewhat. Explanations relate more to structural processes: feminisation of poverty; demographic changes; rise of female-headed households; weakening welfare systems, etc. Existing studies which include (valuable) insights on agency among homeless women generally refer to survival strategies (Reeve et al., 2005), gender performances and reducing the possibility of victimisation (May et al., 2007; Huey and Berndt, 2008). Explanations of homelessness (O’Sullivan, 2008): 1960s and 1970s – individual deficits 1980s -1990s – structural explanations Recent years – interaction between individual and structural processes. Certain groups at greater risk of homelessness due to changing structural conditions. Relationship between structure and agency not well understood (Somerville, 2013). Since 2001, research on homeless women growing slowly – structural explanations of homelessness. Existing studies on women which include (valuable) insights on agency among homeless women: survival strategies (Reeve et al., 2005), gender performances and tactics to reduce the risk of victimisation (May et al., 2007; Huey and Berndt, 2008).
  4. 4. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Qualitative Longitudinal Research (QLR) -Longitudinal research can capture the multidimensional nature of homelessness and how homelessness is a dynamic process (O’Sullivan, 2008). -QLR can capture change over time, as “it is only through time that we can gain a better appreciation of how the personal and the social, agency and structure, the micro and macro are interconnected and how they come to be transformed” (Neale and Flowerdew, 2003:190). -QLR can enlighten our understanding of the relationship between how lives are talked about and how lives are lived (McNaughton, 2006).
  5. 5. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Aim of Presentation AIM OF PRESENTATION: To explore structure and agency in women’s accounts of accommodation transitions over time.
  6. 6. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 The Study
  7. 7. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 The Study Phase I (Mayock and Sheridan, 2012) In-depth study of homeless women in Ireland 60 qualitative life-history interviews Ethnographic observation (4 services) Phase II (Current PhD study) Tracked and re-interviewed = 40/57 women Average time between interview = 2 years & 8 months Lengthy but enlightening tracking process Ethnographic observation (6 services) 2010-2011 2012-2013
  8. 8. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Homeless Pathways of Sample Emergency accommodation (n=18) Transitional accommodation (n=9) Private rented accommodation (n=7) With friends or family (n=2) Long-term supported accommodation (n=2) Domestic violence refuge (n=1) Dilapidated house (n=1) Exited Homelessness (n=17) Private rented accommodation* (n=6) RAS accommodation (n=4) Council house/flat (n=4) Housing association unit (n=3) Transitional/Long-term Accommodation (n=7) Still Homeless (n=16) Emergency homeless accommodation (n=8) Private-rented accommodation * (n=4) With friends or family (n=3) Dilapidated house (n=1) Phase I (2010-11) Phase II (2012-13)
  9. 9. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Accommodation transitions between Phase I & II Housing Status at Phase II Average number of transitions between Phase I & II Women who exited homelessness 1.7 Women who remained homeless 6.3
  10. 10. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Preliminary Analysis
  11. 11. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 1. Exiting Homelessness and Narratives of Agency Narratives of agency. Strategies to secure stable housing: [Interviewer: Did you get help securing the council house?] No! They [the homeless service] didn’t help! I done it meself. I would ring the corporation all the time, and I would say ‘Look, I will live in a dog box!’…...So, I kept ringing, and ringing, and ringing…. (Bernadette, 40, housed) Sense of pride and empowerment after being housed: “I feel as though I did it all myself! Fair enough, I got help and support, but I feel the majority of it was myself - which is nice.” (Emily, 24, housed) The housing officer turned around to me and said, “You poor, poor girl”, and I said “I am not poor, and neither am I a girl! (Imelda, 37, housed)
  12. 12. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Drawing on sources of perceived power: “I went to my local politician…I said ‘If you don’t have me, I am the next one committing suicide. I can’t hack this, I am sick of being knocked all my life, and no one has ever given me a proper chance and all I want is a roof over my head for my children and just to have a bit of peace in my life!’ …I got an offer of two houses in one day!” (Imelda, 37 housed) Circumnavigating services and systems to exit: I would never have taken a place where my Mam lives in the flats. That was the stem of all my problems. You know? And, I needed to get away from there fast. That’s why I ended up in prison because I refused bail – I was breaking up with my partner, I couldn’t afford a place on my own... I knew if I went in, I could talk to the probation officers, I knew people who had got help, and it stemmed from there. (Donna, 40, housed)
  13. 13. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 However there were structural underpinnings in their exiting of homelessness which may be obscured through the women’s accounts (McNaughton, 2006) . Women’s routes out of homelessness were heavily influenced by support from a range of services. Crucially, the women who exited homelessness usually fit a certain profile which may be deemed more “service-friendly”: Characteristics of “deserving” service user (i.e. homelessness linked to domestic violence or poverty; less likely to report addiction or mental health problems) More likely to be compliant, willing to engage and cooperate, affable, and grateful. Migrant women reported more positive pathways than non-migrants. Lower levels of childhood adversity. Less likely to identify with homelessness subculture.
  14. 14. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 I have been there [to council office] and the chief housing officer…she was not interviewing me but she saw me from inside and she saw I am crying and everything…I think she found me as this person who was trying to make a better life I think, I am not a woman only drinking and no future. She knew I will be able buy a new house after this lease finishes in 10 years (Aisha, 34, housed).
  15. 15. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 2. Remaining Homeless and Restricted Agency Structural constraints and restricted options in relation to exiting homelessness. So, I filled in an application form and was waiting a couple of weeks, and she came back and says my needs didn’t fit the criteria of the [housing]. So, I just thought argh sure, private rented – or something but I thought I don’t want to do that, because I am after sticking it this long here [in B&B], I am not going into a room like this again to spend the rest of me life. I have three kids you know what I mean, I need them to come and stay with me. (Stephanie, 35, homeless).
  16. 16. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Personal progress; structural barriers: So I kind of feel that for getting clean, I am owed a bit around luck, so to speak, or a bit of positivity in me life. But I don’t know who I think owes it to me, but I feel that I owed something …..I feel like I am owed a bit respect, or trust…And I just feel like I am not getting anywhere…Nearly I am owed it for myself...” (Caoimhe, 34, still homeless )
  17. 17. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Profile of women who remained homeless: High levels of adversity and victimisation during childhood Addiction problems Mental health issues (worsening over time) More likely to be more entrenched in homelessness services and ‘street subculture’. Less likely to “cooperate” or comply with services yet were highly dependent (and institutionalised) in service provision. Like, people telling me to do this, do that, go for this, go for that – if I want to do it, I’ll do it. People don’t have to push me to do it. If I don’t want to do counselling, I don’t have to do it. It’s like, other people have control over me, since being in here [hostel]. (Viv, 38, homeless)
  18. 18. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 “I don’t feel normal, I just feel like I am a statistic. I think I am just a number. …And I am not a number! I am a person! You know?...I just want to be treated normal. I just feel that in this kind of bubble that I am caught with all the different services, that I can’t be myself….” (Gráinne, 34, homeless)
  19. 19. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 3. Structure and Agency Interplay: A Balancing Act Balancing service requirements with individual needs: We have to just keep at it. Just keeping what we are supposed to do…just play the game. (Chloe, 29, homeless) I was doing everything to please everybody else, but not meself. I went to double counselling, double acupuncture, like everything – anything like. They would say ‘Róisín, do this! You are very good! Do that!’ but actually I was doing it for them, I wasn’t doing it for myself. (Róisín, 40, still homeless)
  20. 20. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Negotiating control when interacting with services: [The homeless support service] wanted to kind of take over and I didn’t want that. I didn’t want them to telling me what to do…. As If I was incapable! ... All that is all over, thank God. I don’t have hassle with anybody, like I had in the past, that was horrible. Those people calling you into meetings, that was horrible… but that’s how the system works. (Fionnuala, 61, housed) “Cooperating” and positively engaging with services: I’ve constantly just learned so much, and it’s really all down to [homeless service] - they pushed me even when I didn’t want to do things they pushed me, in a nice way. (Rosie, 41, housed)
  21. 21. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Conclusion (1) Structure and agency were both present but interacted in highly complex ways in the women’s narratives. Women who exited homelessness viewed their exits as being hugely influenced by their own individual action. Notwithstanding the very positive impact their own actions had on housing transitions, when looking beyond their narrative and at the characteristics of this group, it can be argued that structural processes played an equally important part. Women who exited demonstrated a greater capacity to use the available structures and services to secure housing. They were a “better fit” with the resources available to service providers and were more willing to comply, than those who did not exit. Those who exited by Phase II interview described their “success stories” in a way which counteracts discourses of homeless women as victims and vulnerable.
  22. 22. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Conclusions (2) Women who remained homeless described restricted agency and extreme frustration with regards their continued homelessness. Over prolonged periods of homelessness, women’s capability to act as independent agents was stifled as a result of being entrenched in the homelessness service system. This negatively impacts on women’s likelihood to exit homelessness in the future. Women’s narrative revealed how they engaged in a balancing act between structure and agency in relation to satisfying service providers versus their own desires. Qualitative longitudinal data has the capacity to uncover a more multidimensional understanding of the women’s lives over time; it captures both ‘lives as talked about’ and ‘lives as lived’ (McNaughton, 2006).
  23. 23. 9th European Research Conference Homelessness in Times of Crisis Warsaw, Friday 19th September 2014 Thank you! References: Huey, L & Berndt, E. 2008) You’ve gotta learn how to play the game’: Homeless women’s use of gender performance as a tool for preventing victimisation. Sociological Review, 56, 2, 177- 194. May, J., Cloke, P. & Johnsen, S. (2007) Alternative cartographies of homelessness: Rendering visible British women’s experiences of ‘visible’ homelessness. Gender, Place and Culture, 14, 121-140. McNaughton, C. (2006) Agency, structure and biography: Charting Transitions through homelessness in late modernity. Auto/Biography, 14: 134-152. Neale, B & Flowerdew, J. (2003) Time, texture and childhood: The contours of qualitative longitudinal research. International Journal of Social Research Methodology: Theory and Practice, 6, 3, 189-99. O’Sullivan, E. (2008) Pathways through homelessness: Theoretical constructions and policy implications, in: Doherty, J. and Edgar, B. (eds.) ‘In my Caravan, I feel like Superman’: Essays in Honour of Henk Meert, 1963-2006. Brussels: Feantsa. Reeve, K., Casey, R., and Goudie, R. (2006) Homeless Women Still being Failed, Yet Striving to Survive. London: Crisis. Somerville, P. (1992) Homelessness and the Meaning of Home: Rooflessness or Rootlessness? International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 16, 4, 529-530.

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